Coded blue.

Monday 8 December 2008

Screenshot City of Heroes

Pic of the day: Myrkemann, my level 23 tanker. Not played for more than 10 days. Oh noes!

The Patrol XP compels you!

City of Heroes has always been one of my favorite games since I first got into the closed beta. It still is. And with Issue 13 it is better than ever.

"Issue" is what they call the free expansions that are released typically three times a year. In this case, unfortunately, some people really had issues with it, because there were changes in the Player vs Player system, always a sensitive topic since some people necessarily will come worse out of such a change. 13 was an unlucky number in another way too: Despite performing fine on test, something went wrong when the game was upgraded on the live servers. Many - seemingly most - players saw their game crash to the desktop at random times. Well, almost random. Supergroup bases seemed to cause the most crashes, followed by indoors instanced missions. Whatever it was, it was fixed within a day. There are still some scattered problems for a few players, but by and large the game is better than ever.

A couple new powers were released, among them the long wished for Shield defense. A number of astounding shield models are seen, including various elements and energy shields, and most of them can be colored in various ways, some with emblems. But that is not the big deal for me, although I did make a shield tanker. No, the big deal is the Patrol XP.

As in virtually all such games, your character makes progress by receiving experience points (XP) for defeating bad guys and completing missions (quests). Over the last few years, several games have introduced "resting XP". The idea is that if you have been logged out for a while, you get more points for the same thing after you log in, until you have used up your reserve. It takes different form in different games, but I dare say that it has never been better than this.

You see, the game ties it in with the concept of civilian identities. Almost every English-speaker is familiar with Superman's identity as Clark Kent, but there are many such in superhero comics. Now, the idea is that when you log off your hero, he (or she) will revert to a civilian identity. You can influence where they are supposed to work by choosing where you leave the game. For instance if you log off in a hospital, they are supposed to work in health care, and may eventually get a small healing power if you keep them there enough. If you park your hero in a university, they will be researchers and get a different form of reward. Those who work at the rail station get a bonus to movement speed, and so on. There is a long list of such locations. In addition to this, you get 50% extra experience points.

The game gives you one bar (or bubble) of light blue "patrol XP", which is potential future XP, for each 24 hours you have been away. The upper limit is 10 bars, which is one level. This takes 10 days, but they need not be continuous. If you play less each day than your "patrol XP" has grown, it will continue to creep upward until you have a full level. If you level less than once per 10 days, you will basically always have this 50% bonus. This rewards casual players compared to the obsessed gamer who races through the levels. And since the patrol XP is relative to your level, high-level characters will get much more of it, which helps with the slowness of the later levels.

You would think people would play less when they get rewarded for being logged off. But it is not quite that simple! You see, you can have up to 88 characters per account (more if you are a veteran player or if you buy extra character slots, but seriously... 88 is a lot.) If you have a bunch of them, there will always be some who are about to have a full level of unused Patrol XP, and you will be tempted to go play them so the XP doesn't just overflow and get lost. This encourages players to get back to less played characters. You could easily spend all your free time trying to catch up with all your characters. Not that I do that. I have other interests as well. But I seem to have been playing more since Issue 13 came out...

Another nice trait is that Patrol XP cancels debt. When your character is defeated (from level 10 onward) there is an XP debt: For a while, half of your XP goes to pay off this debt, while half goes toward leveling. Now the game mechanics are set up so that unused Patrol XP is used to pay off the debt. So if you are a foolhardy type, you can take more risks and just sleep off the debt afterwards. Not that I would do that. Taking risks is a bad habit, in my opinion. (In contrast to for instance setting bullies on fire or hacking at them with a glowing sword?)

Previous <-- This month --> Next?
One year ago: Persona non grata
Two years ago: Short: Dark & stormy night
Three years ago: Linuxes
Four years ago: Fast forward
Five years ago: Occupants? We?
Six years ago: Lazy Sunday
Seven years ago: In hospital
Eight years ago: Gaseous society
Nine years ago: Deep frozen werewolf
Ten years ago: Very different phone calls

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